Eco-schools is a programme for environmental management, certification and sustainable development education for schools. Its holistic and participatory approach and combination of learning and action make it an ideal way for schools to embark on a meaningful path to improving the environments of schools and their local communities, and of influencing the lives of young people, their families and teachers in schools. The Eco-schools programme was developed in 1994 on the basis of the need to involve young people in finding solutions to environmental and sustainable development challenges at local leve, as identified at the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992.
Here in Northern Ireland the Eco-schools programme is operated by TIDY Northern Ireland, an environmental charity which receives funds from the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency for Eco-schools, as well as support from the local councils, with the rest generated by private partnerships.
The programme now operates throughout the world and the number of Eco-schools is growing as more and more schools take up the challenge and work towards improving their environment through education and action. Forty-five countries are now signed up to the Eco-schools programme, sharing the same methodology and concept, and are identified by the Eco-school logo and Green Flag.
The Eco-schools Green Flag, awarded to schools with high achievement in their programme, is a recognised and respected eco-label for environmental education and performance. Northern Ireland is ranked sixth out of forty-five participating countries for the number of Green Flag status schools. We were also the first country in the world to award a Green Flag to one of its schools. This was Downpatrick Nursery School, on the 15th June 1994. Northern Ireland has over 140 Green Flag schools out of the 6000 flags awarded worldwide. Of the 26,000 schools registered with the programme internationally, Northern Ireland is fast approaching 600 registered schools.
As a process of facilitating sustainable development in Northern Ireland pupils are encouraged to take an active role in practical steps to reduce the the environmental impact of their school. Eco-schools therefore extend beyond the classroom and develop responsible attitudes and committment both at home and in the wider community.
Newtownhamilton Primary School has started on the road to achieving our Green Flag. We received our Bronze Award in September 2010 and our Silver Award in 2011. This year while working alongside Tidy NI we hope to achieve our Green Flag Status.